Mitt Romney: A Known Unknown

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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152 Responses

  1. Avatar North
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    says:

    Probably apt on a micro level Elias but we forget at our peril that the macro conditions are still the football field on which the micro game is being played. Where’s unemployment? What direction is it going? Where’re gas prices? Where’re they going? Unfortunately with the electorate and the economy the way it is there’s a lot of room for the Mittster to be mediocre.Report

    • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to North
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      All true. Just simply fatigued from writing it over and over. I understand now why it is that campaign journos find themselves writing nonsense horserace stories over flashpoint events that don’t matter and will soon be forgotten. As that famous Slate piece (if poliscientists wrote the news) showed, politics from the perspective of the macro/educated is kinda dull…Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to North
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      says:

      Where’s unemployment?

      Better than when Obama took office.

      What direction is it going?

      Slowly upwards, with gains in the private sector offset to large degree by “cost cutting” in the public sector. Public sector is 1.4 million off from where it should be; that’s 1.4 million fewer firefighters, teachers, policemen that we’d normally have and Mitt Romney thinks we need even less.

      Where’re gas prices? Where’re they going?

      currently downward, following the usual seasonal loops.

      Unfortunately with the electorate and the economy the way it is there’s a lot of room for the Mittster to be mediocre.

      One would hope not. The thing allowing him to be mediocre right now is the right wing radiosphere and blogosphere carrying his water. But then again in the right wing world he’s not running against Obama, a generally centrist President who’s got a hefty set of accomplishments under his belt and who runs a generally centrist if somewhat Federalist administration, he’s running against “Obama, that marxist kenyan muslim who wants to enslave your kids.”Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to North
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      says:

      My model has Obama dead even, given these unemployment numbers.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP
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        says:

        Have you tested your model or is it ad hoc?Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          I’m using the Bush41 numbers as a comparison.

          The LIBOR scandal broke no sooner than I’d completed its integration. That’s screwing with the model. I should probably attenuate LIBOR but I don’t think I will. Even if LIBOR doesn’t get right, subprime everything depends on it.

          If Obama can’t lift unemployment by at least half a percentage point, he’s doomed. The only countervailing force would be a precipitous decline in NYMEX RBOB prices. Maybe after the summer it might drop some, but it’s a hard hill to climb.

          I’m factoring in a theta against all three. Unless there’s a perceptible decline in unemployment, I mean a serious decline, and it has to hit in Sept/Oct, none of these attack ads will make a difference.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          I should add, my Bush41 numbers only go to popular vote. It’s damned near impossible to do electoral college stuff, it’s different now.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
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            says:

            Nate Silver has the popular vote at 51.8 O/48.2 R right now, with electoral at 297/241 and Obama with a 66% chance of winning.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater
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              says:

              Interesting. Thanks. Nate’s a god.

              My long gamma say Obama needs some good news quick. Even with current numbers in place through Nov, Romney has momentum.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I’m already skeptical, but you have a 50-50 chance of being right.

                Did you see Silver’s crtique of models?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Skeptical? Oh, James, you wound me to the quick.

                Here’s the way this little model works, just so you understand. I think three big pain points change the American voters’ minds: unemployment, gas prices and subprime house loan rates. Most of these jamokes have shit credit ratings these days.

                That’s it. That’s all it is. So yap briskly and Exhibit Skepticism. It’s a little game. I don’t factor in poll numbers. I’m nowhere near as good a statistician as Nate Silver but I’m within a percentage point of him.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                Wasn’t trying to wound you, Blaise. Just trying to get a sense of your model. Models in general have a lousy track record. Silver claims “fundamentals” models that don’t incorporate polls tend to be the worst.

                Basing it only on one or two past elections doesn’t provide much basis for confidence, although the fundamental difficulty of modeling prez elections is your n’s going to be low no matter what.

                These models are fun to play around with, though, and there’s nothing wrong with having fun. That said, I lean toward models with fewer variables, like yours, since otherwise it’s easy to make models with as many variables as cases. And that said, I can get behind unemployment rates and gas prices, but my instinct is to be skeptical that subprime mortgage rates matter–but then I can’t provide evidence they don’t.

                And, no, none of that is intended as an attempt to “wound” or be nasty.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                It seems like it’s kind of facile to say that polls are as good as ‘fundamentals’ if the aim is explanation, i.e. why are the polls (including elections) the way they are – why do people vote the way they do . That is not Sliver’s basic aim, though he’s given a bit of attention to it, and that’s why he so uninterested in “fundamentals.” But if the aim is prediction, as Silver’s is, then I’m just going to go with whatever Nate Silver says about that. (Though I have to say I might not as easily do that if it didn’t seem like such a straightforward result that the best way to predict how the electorate is going to vote is to ask them in largish, representative samples how they intend to vote, and then aggregate those results based on the accuracy of the individual instruments’ past predictions).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Silver’s point in that article is that without adding in the polls, the models aren’t very predictive, so in fact they’re not, as you suggest, very explanatory.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Good point. Lack of correlation tends to inhibit the plausibility of claims of causality.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                I guess my point was just that even if we can really perfect the poll-based modeling to very accurately predict election outcomes, it still makes sense to keep looking for correlations between the latter and “fundamentals,” just to try to gain insight into what drives voting behavior – for its own sake, not to arrive at better predictions.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                Agreed. I think it’s going to be exceptionally different because with presidential elections we’re working with a small n and probably always will be. But trying to puzzle out those connections is certainly worth the effort just for the sake of better knowledge.

                To the extent political science can be a “real science,” it won’t be a predictive one like physics but an explanatory one like biology.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                MichaelD: I think the saying is “Campaign in poetry, govern in prose.”

                2700 pages of Obamacare law, 13,000 pages of tax implications and explications.

                Too much fucking prose, mate. Even if the numbers are off by a factor of 10, that’s too fishing much prose.

                You can campaign against that, in poetry.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to James Hanley
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                I literally do not get that reasoning. “It’s complex, therefore bad”.

                WTF? It’s about real life. I’d be worried if it wasn’t complex.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Did you see Silver’s crtique of models?

                That could refer to a number of his posts or pieces. To which do you refer? — I’d like to know which one impressed you.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew
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                Try the link above, that I was working on while you were typing. ;).

                But it’s not just that Silver impressed me. I’ve been casually following my discipline’s attempts to develop predictive models for a few election cycles now (although elections aren’t my area at all), and to date I’m more impressed with their cleverness than their reliability.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley
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                Yep. See above. By ‘models,’ you mean models relating election results to exogenous factors in the society, esp. the economy, right? Silver models various polls’ predictive values this time based on what they were demonstrated to be last time. Those are models, but I take it not the ones you’re talkin’ bout.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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                says:

                Correct.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley
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                I know he’s not a Naomi Campbell fan.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to James Hanley
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          says:

          I have the Clinton numbers but first term is overshadowed by the Dot Com boom and I hate them. Second term, I might try a comparison. But I’ve been pretty busy lately, trying to bulletproof some web services through the ol’ Android AsyncTask has been a bitch.

          // Error returned is:
          // 07-09 20:01:44.125: E/Error:(1511): Unexpected token
          // (position:TEXT @1:4 in java.io.StringReader@415f0430)

          // e.getMessage() will return null, because this error is thrown
          // deep in StringReader.
          // not exactly Android’s finest moment, implementing the
          // getElementsByTagName method
          // but they’re dependent on StringReader, over which we have no
          // control. And we can catch it.
          // We don’t care, we just want to bounce the Toast and return to
          // previous Activity.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP
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            What does StringReader have to do with tokens, expected or other2wise? Its onlyjob is to return characters that are already present in the String. No parsing required.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling
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              says:

              It expects a working web service invocation, heh…

              parser = new XMLParser();
              xml = parser.getXmlFromUrl(_url); // getting XML
              doc = parser.getDomElement(xml); // getting DOM element
              nl = doc.getElementsByTagName(KEY_ITEM); // and that’s where it blows upReport

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP
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                Id this were straight Java, I’d wonder how a StringReader is involved. The first three lined should already have created a DOM, which getElementsByTagName() can simply traverse. Or maybe it’s constructing a DOM on the fly from SAX events, but it’s the SAX parser that would find bad tokens, not a StringReader (which, honestly, just returns a sequence of characters from a String.) Or possibly it’s seeing bytes that don’t match the encoding the web service claims to use, but still, that wouldn’t show up as an exception thrown from a StringReader.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                Yeah, so you’d think. Everyone’s written this at one time or another. But… this is Android, where things get a bit weird.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                That’s what happens when you drive without a license.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    Chait, as usual, is right.

    The uncomfortable truth conservatives look right past is that Romney didn’t win the primary. What transpired was more like a merry-go-round of clownish horse-race leaders who’s heads would pop up triumphantly then immediately free-fall into oblivion, leaving Romney as the least disliked candidate of the bunch. And primarily because he never stick his neck out.

    The rest of what you write reveals how fractured and incoherent the grand old party really is, in my view. Yet, what are the predictors predicting? Nate Silver has Romney getting 48.2% of the popular vote. Crazy.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater
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      says:

      No reason to expect the public to align in some significantly new way until and unless there is a general perception that it has no other choice. On the bright side, I’m confident that we have major catastrophe threatening everything and everyone you think you care about already well under way, coming to a cable channel or more or less trusted internet news source near you, just about any day now!Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Stillwater
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      “The uncomfortable truth conservatives look right past is that Romney didn’t win the primary. What transpired was more like a merry-go-round of clownish horse-race leaders who’s heads would pop up triumphantly then immediately free-fall into oblivion, leaving Romney as the least disliked candidate of the bunch.”

      Sure he won. He poured huge amounts of money into negative advertising in the urban media markets. He won in the big blue urban states that have lots of delegates. In the smaller states he won convincingly in the more urban “blue” counties, splitting the delegates with the conservative du jour who won the rural areas. Look at the maps of Oklahoma, or Ohio, or Georgia, or Alabama — Romney in the cities, someone else in the rural areas. Just for grins, note the similarity between the geographic areas where Romney did well and where Obama did well in the 2008 general election. Romney didn’t win with the part of the Republican Party that the news media focused on — farmers, small towns, the Tea Party. But he did fine with the faceless center-right registered Republicans in the cities and suburbs. The question now is whether he can repeat that performance with the center-right independents and Democrats.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Michael Cain
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        Good analysis.Report

      • Avatar M.A. in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        Ancillary question; as the Tea Party gets even more reactionary and racist than they already are, can Romney manage to avoid being tarred with their brush?Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to M.A.
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          And another question. If Romney wins and has sufficient coattails, can he govern as a center-right President even if he wants to? Or will the Tea Party members of Congress refuse to give him center-right legislation?Report

          • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Michael Cain
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            Not if this quote from Grover Norquist is any indication:

            “We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget,” he told New York magazine. “Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.”

            Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Scott Fields
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              says:

              Which would seem to be a very good reason not to vote Romney, if you don’t want a President who’s going to be a legislative sockpuppet of the Tea Party.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to M.A.
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                I don’t think we can take Grover N’s views on what a GOP president will advocate very seriously, since he thinks he controls GOP presidents in any event.

                That said, I think he’s probably right given the candidate in question.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Stillwater
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                says:

                Stillwater –

                I actually think the election of Romney would present a kind of perfect storm for dogmatic conservative policy. Romney winning the WH would likely also lead to Republican control of both the House and Senate (though likely not filibuster proof numbers there). Given the right base’s hunger for immoderate legislation and the penchant for the path of least resistance that Romney has shown his whole career, Grover et al are going to get a great deal of what they want.Report

              • Avatar Anderson in reply to Scott Fields
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                Eh, I’m dubious. The House will be closer to 50-50 and the Senate will prob be 50-50 exact. I think trying to enact something like the Ryan plan would backfire on Romney and the Repubs, as they learned when GWB tried to pass partial SS privatization. I’d be most worried about them passing even more tax cuts (who doesn’t love lower taxes?!) and then making draconian cuts in non-defense discretionary spending to make up for it. Which I don’t want to happen, but that’s still not what the Norquist plan is either.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Anderson
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                The Ryan plan passed the GOP house pretty easily and most of the GOP Senate Caucus already voted for it (only Rand Paul from the right, the Maine Twins, Scott Brown, and Lisa Murkowksi voted against it) and if Romney wins, it’ll be even easier to pass it next time, especially since you can do reconciliation on budget-related bills and it’ll be a “mandate” for Romney and entitlement reform.

                Now, you might have to lighten up the Ryan plan slightly to make somebody like Scott Brown (if he wins reelection) or Lisa Murkowski vote for it, but most of the newly elected Republican Senator’s are going to be from GOP-friendly states (North Dakota/Nebraska) or purple-ish states where it might be possible to spin the Ryan plan over the next six years (Virginia/Missouri).

                That’s not even getting in the fact that over the past few years, the GOP has gone from at least kind of caring about the ramifications of political ideas (SS privatization) to just not giving a fuck.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Anderson
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                Mr. Anderson, I’m quite enjoying your contributions. Welcome to The Matrix.

                As a point of order, in 21st century newspeak, all cuts in government entitlement spending are “draconian.” Even the ones that simply reduce the rate of increase.

                I think trying to enact something like the Ryan plan would backfire on Romney and the Repubs, as they learned when GWB tried to pass partial SS privatization.

                You are wise beyond your years. Although unlike Obamacare, GWB didn’t shove it down his own party’s and America’s throat, and that’s a genuine difference.

                Me, I think some version of Ryanomics will fly, if Sen. Ron Wyden [D-OR] is any indication of America’s future.

                http://www.forbes.com/sites/aroy/2011/12/17/why-wyden-ryan-is-a-game-changer-on-medicare-reform/Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain
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        I disagree. He didn’t win, he allowed others to lose, and he aided that by running a campaign centered exclusively around negative attack ads. He garnered votes not by gathering support for his platform (which he’s never articulated), but by fostering and capitalizing on voters relatively higher dislike of his opponents.Report

        • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Stillwater
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          With no disrespect, how long has it been since the candidate for either major party, offered the advice to run on positive advertising about their own platform, answered with anything other than the old punch line: “What kind of a fool do you think I am?”Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Michael Cain
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            No disrespect taken. I just disagree with you about this. I think you’re viewing politics and campaigning thru a narrow filter which blurs very real distinctions in how campaigns are structured.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
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              says:

              And … the fact that he hasn’t given the electorate a reason to vote for him – by defining himself via specific policy proposals – is what creates the conundrum Elias is highlighting in the OP.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
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                Democrats run on policy*. Republicans run on principles. That’s what’s the matter with Kansas.

                Further, any specifics from Romney on policy will hit the talkinghead meatgrinder and do nothing but harm and no good. Look at the spew on Paul Ryan’s modest* budget recommendations—migod, they’re questioning his religious faith over them!

                And why I think Ryan’s a dead letter for VP—there’s nothing to be gained by specifics, it’s handing them the rope to hang you with.

                Romney’s message must be that Obama stinks on ice. But to reveal the specifics now just lets Team Obama and the media to play wack-a-mole on them. Come Labor Day, issue by issue, cockup by cockup, Team Romney will build the fire.

                __________
                * Not that it matters. Obama pilloried Hillary on mandating people buy health insurance mandate but enacted it anyway.

                http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/jul/20/barack-obama/obama-flip-flops-requiring-people-buy-health-care/

                **”The president warns that Ryan’s spending “cuts” would “gut” the social safety net. And, it is true that Ryan’s budget knife falls more heavily on domestic discretionary spending than does the president’s — but only relatively. Over the next 10 years, Ryan would spend $352 billion less on those programs than would Obama, an average of just $35.2 billion per year in additional cuts. Given that domestic discretionary spending under the president’s budget will total more than $4 trillion over the next decade, Ryan’s cuts look less than draconian.”

                http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/obamas-paul-ryans-conflicting-budget-visions.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Well, that’s just the point Tom: Romney doesn’t appear to have any principles.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
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                I’ll sustain that snark. 😉

                However, Obama’s principles are unacceptable to the right, so it’s easy to get worked up to defeat him—unlike the neo-liberal center-left Bill Clinton, whose wins against GHWBush and Bob Dole were met with a shrug on the right.

                Romney’s take-it-slow approach also exhibits statesmanship, very valued on the right. BHO, well, I agree with this:

                http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/it_bully_versus_nerd_Cia5aa4SfVTR7ASpBFxDbO#ixzz209o2u8N6

                Romney’s big problem is that he grew up in another America. He was raised to believe there is a clear standard for adult conduct, that even politics has rules and that it is the duty of a president to unite and lead the nation through its economic crisis.

                Timing could be his great misfortune. Fate has given him a demoralized electorate that is growing distant from that old America and an opponent who spouts its verities, but actually believes in none of them.

                Barack Obama believes that politics is a knife fight, and the only rule is that he must win. His conduct reflects the unholy mix of a messiah complex with the muscle of The Chicago Way. His goal, he tells us, is to “transform” America, not fix it.

                This culture clash explains a presidential campaign operating in parallel universes.

                But me, I’m not worried. I do believe Romney is more temperamentally suited to the presidency and I believe the election grind is already illustrating that.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                If I were the Post, I’d demand better work from my hacks.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                Soulless Body Found In Heartless PartyReport

              • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                One man’s statesmanship is other man’s
                mendacity
                .Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Oh, I think Goodwin scored bigtime, CK:

                Obama’s not making a national appeal. He’s micro-targeting groups already supporting him, hoping to drive up their numbers to offset the loss of voters for whom the economy and related fiscal issues matter most.

                [You could read “white vote” there: Obama may score the lowest for the Dems since, I dunno, Adlai Stevenson.]

                President Obama does not currently have enough white support to win re-election even if he retains his minority base from 2008. At the same time, electoral data indicates Mitt Romney has not yet attracted enough of these white voters to capitalize on Obama’s weakness.

                Pundits often note that Romney cannot win with his current level of Hispanic support. That’s likely true. But so is the converse: Obama cannot win with his level of white support unless white swing voters withhold their votes from Romney as well.

                http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/06/22/obamas_white_support_is_too_low_to_win_2012_romney_white_male_gap_white_women_kuhn_114579.htmlReport

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Jay, I just wanted to say that I caught the reference and it was very clever.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Making the joke is its own reward but it’s always lovely when someone else gets it.

                Thank you, Rufus.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Oh, that’s alright. I imagine you’d do the same for me.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                “Democrats run on policy*. Republicans run on principles. ”

                Would that either governed on them.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to RTod
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                I’m not that forlorn, RTod. BHO shtupped Obamacare on us; Dubya’s “compassionate” conservatism warned us he was no fiscal hawk. We got what we paid for.

                After Bill Clinton got the leftism whipped out of him in the 1994 NewtStorm, we got this in January 1996:

                “We will meet these challenges, not through big government. The era of big government is over, but we can’t go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves.

                We will meet them by going forward as one America, by working together in our communities, our schools, our churches and synagogues, our workplaces across the entire spectrum of our civic life.

                As we move forward with tomorrow’s challenges, we also must take care of yesterday’s unfinished business. First, we must balance the budget. In the 12 years before I took office the deficit skyrocketed and our national debt quadrupled.”

                We re-elected THAT Bill Clinton, comfortably, and I’d say that sounds a lot more like Mitt than Barack. It’s principle with a “compassionate” nod and a wink toward policy.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Labor Day is about the timing that I expect. My biggest question is whether by that time the Democrats will have succeeded in painting Romney as one of the high-finance clowns that contributed so much to the recession. My perception is that Gingrich demonstrated that Romney is susceptible to such an attack. The circumstantial evidence right now is that Romney has at least done all of the things that I would probably do if I had had income in the range he did — move money overseas, skate close to the edge on my taxes. BlaiseP has pointed out before that those same things are available to us all — it’s just that the getting-started costs are such that it’s a money-losing proposition for the median household.

                I have thought since before the first of the year that a Main Street financial populism could be a winning platform for the Republicans; less so for the Democrats. The Republicans could come out being generous to every kind of business except the big investment banks, and hit the banks hard. Much more difficult for the Democrats to suggest reconsidering environmental regulations or rolling back the minimum wage. But Romney is not the candidate that can run on that platform.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Democrats run on policy*. Republicans run on principles.

                I’ll take Nonsense Sayings for $1,000, Alex.

                Further, any specifics from Romney on policy will hit the talkinghead meatgrinder and do nothing but harm and no good.

                Very true. And yet conservatives had no problem with bashing Obama for running on a vague “hope and change” platform with few policy specifics.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley
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                I think it’s a bit unfair – incorrect even – to say Obama ran on a “Hope and Change” platform devoid of specifics. Just about any result you click on for a search of “Obama campaign promises” shows that he made a whole bunch of em. And very specific too.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater
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                I was referring to what conservatives said about Obama.Report

  3. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    An excellent post as usual, Elias. I might differ just a side, in that I don’t think Romney’s big risk is that he will be seen as a man without policy opinions or ideas.

    I think that he way underplayed his hand in the primaries. My feeling was that his campaign was constantly panicking, and that anytime a far right unelectable candidate said anything that made them unelectable, Romney’s people felt the need for him to say “Me too!” I think had they allowed him to stay more corporatist/centrist (where I believe he sits in natural repose) he’d still have won the primary, and would potentially have great appeal to the moderates and independents. As it is, he’s to the unenviable choice of sitting on his primary statements that will alienate the center, or admit to his base before the election that he didn’t really mean any of the things he said to them.Report

  4. Avatar Tom Van Dyke
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    says:

    With 4 months to go, Romney’s #1 job is to not make America sick of him, and let it get sicker of Obama. Gingrich would already be down 20 points if he’d gotten the nomination, because the man doesn’t know when to shut up.

    Everytime Romney says something, the press combs it for a blunder that can be inflated into “news.” No good can come out of showing his cards at this time. As long as he’s somewhat even in the polls, keeping his powder dry is the wise course.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      I’d say this is half true. TVD is correct that it’s important to avoid making the public sick of you, but that’s only half the battle for Romney. He can’t just sit and wait for the public to get sicker of Obama–O’s been in the spotlight for over 4 years, so barring some truly notable event, the public is neither going to get much sicker of him nor become much fonder of him by election day. They already know him, and not Romney nor any superpac (pro or anti O) can make a significant change in their knowledge/beliefs about him. But meanwhile Elias’s last sentence is spot on–with Romney not being so well-known, knowledge/belief about him is not yet solid, it’s still being created, and if Romney doesn’t do the creating tout sweet, he’ll find O has done it first, and he’ll have the much tougher job of re-creating, rather than the easier job of creating his image.

      He cannot just keep his powder dry, lest he find he’s already lost the duel.Report

      • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        So right! Re-creating is nigh impossible, because once the narrative of a candidate is set, all subsequent messaging is seen in the light of that narrative. In 2004, Kerry was pegged as a flip-flopper early on and all his positions from that point going forward were assessed against all earlier positions to see if he’d changed.

        If there is a case to be made for greater tax cuts for the rich, it is likely to be undermined as self-serving if the tax haven loving Romney characterization becomes set.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        I think this is right, but I agree with Tom that there’s nothing to be gained from showing his hand at this point. Especially because anything he says is going to be taken and used to try and alienate him from either the base or the moderates/independents.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly
          Ignored
          says:

          I just think it’s unrealistic to think that he can wait until late in the game to show his hand and have it be effective. His hand at that point will be interpreted solely within the narrative his opponents have drafted about him. The presidential election isn’t a NASCAR race where you want to hang around in second and draft for the pass on the last turn. It’s the Tour de France, where you want to grab the yellow jersey and hang onto it. The idea that campaigns sandbag until they turn it on at the end is just not how it works. Successful campaigns go full bore early on and don’t let up.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      Keeping his powder dry is wise because if he says the things he actually wants to do – or the things he has to say he wants to do, should he decide to say what things he wants to do – are going to land with a thud among the electorate and pull his numbers down, possibly terminally. Waiting to reveal the specifics of his proposals is necessary for him because he has to minimize the amount of time the public has to review and consider them. Additionally, waiting allows him to observe the the public mood(s) and tweak the presentation/choose the timing of the release of his proposal details so as to further minimize the damage that he will incur when he reveals them. Of course, he can’t really wait much longer than August because he can’t just dispense with the Party platform drafting process, much as I think he’d like to. But he will wait until then, would be my guess.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Michael Drew
        Ignored
        says:

        Waiting to reveal the specifics of his proposals is necessary for him because he has to minimize the amount of time the public has to review and consider them. Additionally, waiting allows him to observe the the public mood(s) and tweak the presentation/choose the timing of the release of his proposal details so as to further minimize the damage …

        Aye, MichaelD. Do party platforms matter, though? Romney’s job is to keep whatever Paulites and other delegates from ruining the convention, and the platform is where you throw them a bone.

        Delegate count:
        Romnoid: 1473

        Sanitorium: 267

        Grinch: 145

        Crazy Uncle Ron: 118Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          To some extent he’ll own the platform, whatever it says, whoever wrote it – but not entirely, you’re right. I wasn’t intending to equate his proposals to it, though. I was simply saying that once it’s written, he’ll have to either own it more or less completely, *or else* lay out where he departs from it, perhaps by simply supplanting it with a comprehensive program of his own. Or maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps it’ll be Da Da all fall, and he’ll just disown the platform as you say. I don’t have much doubt the press would let him get away with that any less than everything else. Or perhaps they’re just irrelevant now, and the people themselves are simply willing to accept (which is not to say, elect) a candidate without proposals.

          You did notice that I asserted that his own proposals would land with a thud and bring down his numbers, though, did you not, Tom? Did you mean to say ‘aye’ to that?Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Michael Drew
            Ignored
            says:

            Aye, Michael, I did. And why Paul Ryan is a bad choice for VP–specifics put a bullseye on your forehead and he’s one of the only people in Washington who speaks any. I love the guy, but the jackals will murder him.

            Again, the GOP can never outwonk the Dems. Playing the other guy’s game is a loser: whatever policy the Reps propose, the Dems got one bigger and better.

            So it’s the principles game. The political philosophy question is one of worldview: what are governments for in the first place?

            “…certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

            Jefferson, “negative” liberty, federal government designed to protect our rights but otherwise given limited, enumerated powers.

            But FDR rewrote that understanding of government’s purpose, or at least expanded it, from negative liberty to positive action:

            “In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

            The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

            The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

            The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

            The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.”

            The Third Freedom is a chicken in every pot and is key here; by extension, it’s health care, free contraceptives, college tuition, etc.

            [The Fourth speaks the language of disarmament, but on January 6, 1941, FDR surely smells the war in the air wafting over from Europe. Not really relevant here except to the Greenwaldians.]

            Which is my long way of saying that policies and programs are the province of the Dems. But I don’t know what Obama can promise on that front—he can’t get a do-over on 2010 to give him control of Congress back.

            Mitt only needs to show he has some sort of policy ideas–you can’t beat something with nothing, but as long as you have a curtain to point to, like position papers and websites, you’re in the clear. “Well, if you don’t like Obamacare, Mr. Romney, what are you going to replace it with?”

            “Well, I’m very, very glad you asked that question, Mr. Clintonopoulos. Overhappyhappyjoyjoyed. Why, I want all of America to go to my website right now and review my 68-point plan, which is 3 whole more points than Barack Obama has!”

            http://www.mittromney.com/issues/health-care

            Restore State Leadership and Flexibility

            Mitt will begin by returning states to their proper place in charge of regulating local insurance markets and caring for the poor, uninsured, and chronically ill. States will have both the incentive and the flexibility to experiment, learn from one another, and craft the approaches best suited to their own citizens.

            Block grant Medicaid and other payments to states
            Limit federal standards and requirements on both private insurance and Medicaid coverage
            Ensure flexibility to help the uninsured, including public-private partnerships, exchanges, and subsidies
            Ensure flexibility to help the chronically ill, including high-risk pools, reinsurance, and risk adjustment
            Offer innovation grants to explore non-litigation alternatives to dispute resolution
            Promote Free Markets and Fair Competition

            Competition drives improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, offering consumers higher quality goods and services at lower cost. It can have the same effect in the health care system, if given the chance to work.

            Cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits
            Empower individuals and small businesses to form purchasing pools
            Prevent discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage
            Facilitate IT interoperability
            Empower Consumer Choice

            For markets to work, consumers must have the information and the power to make decisions about their own care. Placing the patient at the center of the process will drive quality up and cost down while ensuring that services are designed to provide what Americans actually want.

            End tax discrimination against the individual purchase of insurance
            Allow consumers to purchase insurance across state lines
            Unshackle HSAs by allowing funds to be used for insurance premiums
            Promote “co-insurance” products
            Promote alternatives to “fee for service”
            Encourage “Consumer Reports”-type ratings of alternative insurance plansReport

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              I’m glad we’re clear on this.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              Multi-Point plans always make me giggle. Then slam my head against the wall.Report

            • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              Paul Ryan is a bad choice for VP–specifics put a bullseye on your forehead and he’s one of the only people in Washington who speaks any.

              Excuse me?Report

            • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              “Block grant Medicaid and other payments to states…”

              I love arguing about this proposal. With my policy wonk hat on, my first question is, how will the size of the block grants be calculated? Will Mitt quit favoring certain states — eg, the poor “red” ones likely to vote for him — that get larger percentage reimbursements for social services from the federal government than the richer bluer states that are likely to vote against him? To pick particular examples, consider Mississippi. The feds pick up almost 75% of Mississippi’s Medicaid expenses, versus only 50% in California. Does Mississippi get to experiment with a block grant that’s simply proportional to the state’s population or what the state’s residents pay in federal taxes? Or do they get to experiment with a block grant where California is still forced to help out?

              If we go to a “fair” block grant, say, one based on what a state’s citizens pay in federal taxes (that is, states are going to pay for their own social services but not for another state’s), I predict two outcomes: (1) the poor red states are going to howl when they discover how much federal money disappears; and (2) the rich blue states are going to impose limits like “You can’t qualify for public assistance unless you’ve lived here five years” in order to stop the flood of migration.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Michael Cain
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s not the best statistic to use, Michael. The feds pick up 75% of Mississippi’s tab, and less of New York’s (I assume), but HHS spends more per-capita in New York than Mississippi. The reason that the government’s share is so large is that the state itself isn’t kicking in much and there is less overall HHS spending.

                I choose New York because California beats Mississippi in either direction. However, per-capita federal Medicaid spending in Texas appears to be lower than California, even though (I’m pretty sure) California’s federal contribution as a percentage is lower than that of Texas (the difference being state spending).Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Will Truman
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re absolutely right, of course. There are ways to define the per-state block grant level so that the poor (typically more red) states tend to make out like bandits and the rich (typically more blue) states tend to lose badly. Or the other way round. Or — least likely in my opinion — in a fashion that is neutral relative to current state-by-state arrangements/spending.

                Texas vs California is a typically hard comparison. Texas gets a better federal match: $1.46 per state dollar in Texas vs $1.00 per state dollar in California. Texas spends more money per enrollee than California, but less money per state resident overall. Texas actually spends more state dollars per enrollee than California, but a much smaller portion of the population is enrolled in Texas (due to tougher qualifying rules).

                Anyone who wants to propose converting Medicaid be converted to block grants ought to say at least something about what kind of block grant formula they want to impose.

                The Kaiser Family Foundation has a page that gives access to a lot of interesting numbers on Medicaid (http://www.statehealthfacts.org/medicaid.jsp).Report

            • Avatar ZombieViolin in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              I just wanted to note that none of you seem to be watching the Romney campaign ads. He is not keeping his platform to himself–perhaps you have not been paying attention to his ads embracing the Koch Brothers’ platform Day 1:

              1. Approve the Keystone Pipeline
              2. Reform and lower taxes on the “job creators”
              3. Order healthcare reform

              I have no idea how these play with the base Republicans, but I can tell you for certain they motivate progressives to get out and vote against him. The ad is more effective with progressive voters than anything the Obama camp has come up with.

              Progressive do not like Obama in a big way, but they despise Romney, and the more we see of him the more we have to loathe.

              Oddly enough there is nothing Obama can do to motivate progressives disenchanted with his leaving the Bush surveillance state programs in place, continuing drone attacks in violation of international law, and keeping Gitmo up and running mostly housing people who were randomly swept up on the battlefield and kept prisoner indefinitely without trial in violation of both US and international law.

              But Obama doesn’t have to do anything to motivate progressives because Romney cluelessly telling everyone to eat cake will get the progressive vote out in droves.

              The Romney campaign chose to go after the barking mad fringe of the party in order to win the primary at the expense of losing Romney’s centrist appeal as a thinking moderate.

              We have two Harvard graduates, arguably both from the plutocracy, who have not a clue about what it is like to be among the 20% of unemployed workers or the declining middle class in the US.

              They are both cake eaters who pander to Wall Street and the progressives don’t like either of them.

              Obama deeply disappoints the progressives–Romney galvanises them.

              While fully of third of Romney’s base will not vote at all in the coming election because of racial prejudice warring with religious prejudice and leading them to “none of the above,” angry progressives will turn out in large numbers to defeat Romney.

              We have 3 parties in the country right now and none of them are popular.

              We have center-right Democrats taking up the political spectrum that used to be filled by moderate Republicans while alienating the majority of their party.

              We have old school payolla Republicans who represent the moneyed interests who buy them on behalf of voters who are too ignorant to be described as anything other than rubes.

              Then we have the winners of the last election, the Tea Party, who have managed to usurp the Republican party and may best be described as “libertarian anarchists” intent upon ending all government–and presently succeeding at it through obstruction.

              Neither party has a majority in the House. The Republicans have a shaky coalition with madmen. They can only do crazy things because they do not have enough votes to do anything in the way of responsible governance.

              Romney could have gotten the swing votes he needed, but he has veered too far to the right and flip-flopped on every issue he has spoken on since 2008. It is too easy to use his own rhetoric to prove the lie.

              The Republicans failed to keep control of their own party primaries in 2010 and lost to the Tea Party. In 2012 they have failed to deliver a viable candidate for the Presidency for the same reason.

              Until the Republican Party can learn to curb their dogs and behave like responsible adults they will be unable to accomplish anything productive or field an electable national candidate.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    This has to be the most boring election in memory. They like to pillory the “uninformed voters,” but I’m pretty sure they’re the sane ones.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      Have you forgotten 2000? Two candidates who were impossible to listen to, talking about nothing because the cold war was over, the economy was pretty strong, and the candidates had no idea what issues might motivate a supremely comfortable public.Report

    • Avatar Anderson in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      True. And yet it feels like the campaign continues to start earlier and earlier. Not like the good old days of 1820 when, “Effectively there was no campaign, since there was no serious opposition to Monroe.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1820)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Anderson
        Ignored
        says:

        They do continue to start earlier. A large part of that is the states’ leapfrogging each other to get their primaries up to the front of the line. It’s a real problem, I think, to have our candidates selected 6-8 months before the election, but there’s no straightforward solution.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
          Ignored
          says:

          I actually have no problem with the 6-8 month thing. My bigger problem with the “It’s always settled before it gets to my state” thing. But I oppose a national primary, so what am I going to do?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman
            Ignored
            says:

            Will,

            I do have a problem with the length of it. Most of what we’re ever going to learn about them or get from them comes out during the primaries, then we’re left with half a year of repetition that accomplishes nothing but remind us that familiarity breeds contempt. It’s not healthy for democracy.

            My preferred solution is rotating regional primaries, so that one year the NE is first, SE second, Midwest third, etc., and the following election year the SE is first and the NE drops to the final slot. But that depends on states being willing to all cooperate, and that’s bloody unlikely because nobody ever is willing to accept it being “settled before it gets to my state.”

            (Well, nobody but me, it seems. I guess I’m the oddball, but I’d like it to be settled before it gets to my state so I don’t get inundated with ads, flyers, and phone calls. And I’ve got not confidence my state will add any value to the process that others haven’t already.)Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman
            Ignored
            says:

            Obama-Hillary fairly went down to the wire, yes? The GOP achieves consensus more quickly, that’s so.

            I was a Lamar Alexander man in 1996, they say the only GOP candidate that Team Clinton thought they could lose to. Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary, and the party smelled a Goldwater ’64 electoral disaster, not only losing the presidential election but a zilli0on seats in Congress as well.

            Bob Dole was anointed the Sacrificial Lamb: He lost, but the GOP held onto its Gingrichy control of both houses of Congress.

            For the record. Had the preachy Santorum or the loudmouth Gingrich hisself won the nomination in 2012, the GOP would be in panic mode right about….now.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              The GOP achieves consensus more quickly, that’s so.

              Bachman … Perry… Cain … Paul … Santorum … Newt … Romney!Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Opinion polls are “signalling.” The ballot box, the real thing. C’mon, brother: Be. Here. Now.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom, the ballot box signalled no true consensus.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                You mean that in 2008, Hillary won the primary vote over Obama? True story. Betcha din’t know that, didja.

                ;-}

                Bet not one out of 100 knows that.

                Popular vote

                Obama: 17,584,692 [47.31%]

                Hillary: 17,857,501 [48.04%]

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_presidential_primaries,_2008

                Is that Interesting or What???

                As for my Alexander/Buchanan/Dole story, that’s fact. As for Romney being the nominee, so is that. Be here now.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom, your whole thesis here is whacked. Hillary and Obama ran on almost identical platforms, which had lots of support and supporters, which is a sign of consensus. The GOP candidates ran on radically different platforms and each of them had their moment in the sun, which is a sign of a lack of consensus.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                The GOP candidates ran on radically different platforms

                Did they? There was always a perception that the candidates themselves were different, but I don’t seem to recall a whole lot of substantive discord outside who was the most trustworthy to stick it to Obama and uphold conservative values (without only marginal differences in how said values were defined). The only policy differences I really remember were accusations about some candidate having supported something every other candidate on the stage absolutely opposes with every fiber of their being.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                No, Mr. Stillwater, my whole thesis here is excellent and you better get out of the way of it before you become roadkill and Larry the Cable guy will pick your rotting carcass out of the ditch and eat you whole probably without even bothering to your guts out and then he will throw your bones away in the back of his SUV pickup truck and laugh about how shitty you taste and then he’ll smash into a deer which would have killed him if he had been driving a sensible high-mileage care but he wasn’t so the deer died instead of Larry and so he took it home and they had a Larry the deerslayer day at his baptist church and everybody paid 5 bucks to feast on some decent fresh deermeat for a change instead of that pink slime they put in corporate hamburgers and besides, global warming.

                I trust that clarifies things.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke
              Ignored
              says:

              Yes, Obama-Clinton was a good horse race, as horse races go. But had it all started 3-4 months later there would still have been less time until the general election.

              Some time in between is probably needed–whatever heat Romney’s campaign manager took for his etch-a-sketch remark, he was largely telling the truth about the need to reboot and refocus on a different type of race–but too much doesn’t do anyone any good.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman
            Ignored
            says:

            Couldn’t they simply rotate the primaries?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
              Ignored
              says:

              “My preferred solution is rotating regional primaries, so that one year the NE is first, SE second, Midwest third, etc., and the following election year the SE is first and the NE drops to the final slot. But that depends on states being willing to all cooperate, and that’s bloody unlikely because nobody ever is willing to accept it being “settled before it gets to my state.””

              Or I could have just read what Hanley already wrote…Report

  6. Avatar CK MacLeod
    Ignored
    says:

    Here is why that post excerpt is hackwork:

    Fate has given him a demoralized electorate that is growing distant from that old America and an opponent who spouts its verities, but actually believes in none of them.

    Unless you possess unknown access to the Barack Obama’s confessions to his spiritual adviser Jeremiah Wright or maybe his pillow talk with Michelle or maybe intercepts from his secret gay Muslim terrorist Commie controller, there is no proving or disproving such a statement about Obama’s “actual beliefs.” It can have only a perceived truth value. It is utterly un-serious. It’s polemical Muzak for the already-convinced.

    Barack Obama believes that politics is a knife fight, and the only rule is that he must win. His conduct reflects the unholy mix of a messiah complex with the muscle of The Chicago Way. His goal, he tells us, is to “transform” America, not fix it.

    More about what Obama “believes” – but this time it’s not just eyewash, but archaeologically identifiable eyewash. The first two sentences are four-year-old polit-twaddle. It was already boring by this time of the year 2008. The last sentence is based on late-in-the-campaign Obama statements. The talkradio-right started gnawing on that bone almost four years ago. It was a favorite of Glenn Beck.

    The use of the present tense – “tells” – is the dead giveaway, as though O has been all along telling us that he wants to “‘transform’ America,” when he hasn’t uttered a word on that theme over the entire course of his presidency. Yes, I know, Glenn, he’s hiding his evil cancer-progressive plot. That’s old, too, and, anyway, it’s irrelevant. The point is that the article is hackwork. It’s parts don’t fit together. Apparently, O has been reciting those “verities” he supposedly doesn’t believe in, but at the same time telling us about his transformational intentions. Well, which is it?

    At this point, I have already spent more time thinking about those paragraphs than the author did. C’mon, TVD, at some level you know that stuff is beneath you.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to CK MacLeod
      Ignored
      says:

      CK, I appreciate the diligence of your vivisection of the piece. Salut.

      There is not enough common ground for us to explore whether BHO actually does believe in America’s exceptionalism, the American Dream, and all that stuff. I often note that the “B” word—bigot—looms over every discussion of gay issues. In this case, “B” stands for “Beck” as in “Glenn.”

      ;-P

      But exactly were the “Dreams from My Father” that Barack Obama got and presumably still believes in? Who was his father again?

      As for the “knife fight” bit, that’s a direct quote from BHO. Also 2010:

      “And if Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, we’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us…”

      And that’s how he governs. I don’t like Barack Obama on the stump either, esp the 2012 Obama. He’s sarcastic and divisive and completely unpresidential. [Bill Clinton could pull that act off—there was a twinkle in his eye as he demagogued his opponents, letting us all in on the joke. ]

      And so, I think the author quite nailed BHO on his intentional divide-and-conquer strategy, that

      Obama’s not making a national appeal. He’s micro-targeting groups already supporting him, hoping to drive up their numbers to offset the loss of voters for whom the economy and related fiscal issues matter most.

      and

      Our president is a deeply cynical man, but the more disturbing fact is that his cynicism has freed him from responsibility, and that freedom is proving to be a campaign advantage. The rising star who once claimed to see not a red or blue America but a united one has shed that pose for a message tailored to a country he helped polarize.

      I’m quite angry at President Obama for doing this to us. I don’t see how it can be denied that divisiveness is how he has governed, and divisiveness is how he’s campaigning for re-election.

      Us vs. Them. And if he wins, he will have no mandate to govern beyond such a brutish 51-49 majoritarianism. As Pierre rightfully mocks above:

      I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU!

      Fight whom? Some of your fellow Americans, that’s whom. The 1%, the Republicans, whathaveyou.

      Now, I imagine Romney has or will use that imagery sometime, but it’s just not him. The only thing Romney knows about knife fights is which fork you use first.Report

      • Avatar b-psycho in reply to Tom Van Dyke
        Ignored
        says:

        There is not enough common ground for us to explore whether BHO actually does believe in America’s exceptionalism, the American Dream, and all that stuff.

        Well he clearly believes that America holds an exception when it comes to foreign policy in terms of force (as in “we may do this, you cannot”)…Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to b-psycho
          Ignored
          says:

          Mr. Psycho: Pls see FDR’s Fourth Freedom, above in the thread.

          Frankly, I don’t know what President Obama would or will do in an actual crisis. I hope we never have to find out.

          I will say that I don’t think the president is especially vulnerable on foreign policy. In our Great War of Terror [as Borat would say], he’s done little to change it except its name—just as Jimmy Carter stood up to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there’s a general consensus in American foreign policy that transcends party. [Lefties don’t like it, but Dems and Reps are pretty much on the same page.]

          I do think Carter punted it bigtime with the Shah, and President Obama with Mubarak. However, we will not know how badly until after November. And perhaps we will dodge that bullet: It’s not a certainty that Muslim Brotherhood governments in Egypt [Libya, elsewhere] will be a disaster for the civilized world.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke
        Ignored
        says:

        This is just all so marvelous. When kept in these vague terms, without clear specific examples, and with that wonderful gauzy curtain of romantic memory drawn over the past so we can pretend there was never divisiveness in the past, why it all almost sounds true.

        We have here a man who denies Nixon used a southern strategy complaining about Obama micro-targeting. That’s the real story here.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Tom Van Dyke
        Ignored
        says:

        But exactly were the “Dreams from My Father” that Barack Obama got and presumably still believes in?

        Why do we presume anything about that at all, and what makes you think that he ever “believed” in them, or that they were the kinds of dream that one could believe in, or believe in in some politically implementable way? Do you go about seeking to implement your “dreams”? What about the one where you attended CPAC and you were talking with Grover Norquist and discovered you were naked? Don’t answer that.

        Who was his father again?

        I forget, or maybe I’m just forgetting to care. Who was your father? What difference does it make? My father turned into a far right blankety-blank in his old age, but I still love and respect him. His waking dreams – about what kind of life he would lead – didn’t turn out all that well. When I think about them and their influence on me, well my reaction is a little more complicated than thinking it would be good if they were everyone else’s dreams, or however BHO’s response to or ideas about his absent daddy’s supposed dreams are supposed to apply to PPACA or the Bush tax cuts or bombing Iran.

        Really, all this stuff about whether BHO is an exceptionalist or whether his comments characterizing the way Latinos might be thinking make him a divider not a uniter or the notion that the politics of division were something especially generated by the infuriating BHO, while all the Republican and conservative statesmen and -women and -others were focused strictly on their exceptional patriotism and their sky-high principles, getting the back of Simon LeObama’s hand every time they offered their principled exceptional unifying darn good proposals up to him… it’s just plain comically one-sided. But even if you refuse to recognize that screamingly obvious fact, you should at least be able to summon the critical faculties required to note that the Goodwin’s judgments and your judgments of his judgments are just about completely subjective, where mentioned in relation to facts factoidal rather than factual.

        BTW – if I’m not mistaken, Karl Rove and the Bush 2004 re-elect are credited with the theory of micro-targeting in trench warfare elections. Does Karl Rove hate America? Should Mitt Romney tell GPS Crossroads to knock off what they’re up to, rather than continue to associate his campaign with a bunch of America-haters? I’ll betcha you can’t come up with an excuse that a BHO supporter couldn’t with minimal adjustment apply to BHO’s effort.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to CK MacLeod
          Ignored
          says:

          Not biting on the Karl Rove tu quoque, Mr. MacLeod. As for the rest, this Republican sees a great gulf between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

          This has to do with political philosophies, nothing to do with this election except that Bill Clinton as president was far closer to what a Mitt Romney presidency will be like than Barack Obama’s.

          Post 1994 and 2010, mind you, and I know you do.

          I’m a good governace guy, perhaps you know. Consent of the governed? Essential.

          Statesmanship. Our president should lead, but he should not rule. That is both anti-democratic and anti-republican. Small “d” and small “r.”Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke
            Ignored
            says:

            Mitt Romney is going to raise taxes on rich people, cut the defense budget, and shut the government down if the try to make Medicaid cuts? Awesome!Report

          • Avatar Annelid Gustator in reply to Tom Van Dyke
            Ignored
            says:

            “Does Karl Rove hate America? Should Mitt Romney tell GPS Crossroads to knock off what they’re up to, rather than continue to associate his campaign with a bunch of America-haters? ”

            Well? Does he, and should he, respectively?Report

          • Avatar Mo in reply to Tom Van Dyke
            Ignored
            says:

            Was I blackout drunk during the entire 90s or does a Republican now saying that Clinton was a respectful rather than brass-knuckles campaigner and statemanlike sound like a bunch of revisionist history because Clinton can’t run anymore?Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Mo
              Ignored
              says:

              The Clinton’s were History’s Greatest Monsters (Black Helicopters! Vince Foster! Waco!) until Obama became President. Then, Clinton became a moderate deal-maker who Republican’s wished for.

              I look forward to a version of TVD speaking wistfully about Obama in 2024 when President Gillibrand is passing Medicare-for-All and nationwide gay marriage.Report

      • Avatar Annelid Gustator in reply to Tom Van Dyke
        Ignored
        says:

        “there was a twinkle in his eye as he demagogued his opponents, letting us all in on the joke”

        Ah, so you don’t see the twinkle in the President’s eye? I do. Seems like you think so highly of your ability to understand all sides, and yet…Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Annelid Gustator
          Ignored
          says:

          Ah, so you don’t see the twinkle in the President’s eye? I do. Seems like you think so highly of your ability to understand all sides, and yet…

          ..and yet Bill Clinton is a Democrat. Ooops.

          And so, welcome to the LoOG jungle. I’ve a feeling y’ll fit right in, Annelid.

          BTW, I’m not only a minority around here, I’m an endangered species. So stomp carefully with those jackboots, mama.Report

          • Avatar Annelid Gustator in reply to Tom Van Dyke
            Ignored
            says:

            Was there something telling there, in your mind?

            My point was that it’s clear that your understanding of democrats is pretty limited. Given your failure to see the rhetorical winks and nods in the *current* democratic President’s presentations, I think your highly self-esteemed “understanding of all sides” is maybe a mite unjustified.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Annelid Gustator
              Ignored
              says:

              Yes, Annelid, I read that the first time you said it. That Barack Obama’s demagoguery is spoken with a nod and a wink ala Bill Clinton comes as welcome news. I shall spread the word. Most of the rest of us are not yet in on the joke.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Tom Van Dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Did he twinkle? Was his twinkle sincere? Did he mean the part where he said we were all in this together or did he mean the part where he implied that some weren’t contributing their fair share? Does he believe America is the greatest thing ever, in the greatest way ever? Does he really believe America is the greatest thing ever in the greatest way ever or is his belief at some point uncertain? Would someone who was certain and had always been certain have smoked pot with a Marxist? If he hasn’t always been certain, then doesn’t that mean he must still have at minimum a teensy bit of uncertainty deep within? If he has some uncertainty deep within, then that means he at least a little bit uncertain. If he’s uncertain at all, on any level, then isn’t he LYING when he says he really believes America is the greatest thing ever in the greatest way ever? If he would LIE about something so important, what wouldn’t he lie about? If it’s not that important, then he’s flagrantly LYING! He must despise us, he must hate America. If he despises us and hates America and is a liar, then he must be destroyed. How dare he claim to believe America is the greatest thing ever in the greatest way ever! Look, did you see his eye twinkle there? How could it be anything other than a signal to his fellow lying America-haters! He thinks we’re too stupid to see it, but nooooooo… we’ll show you, Barack Hussein Obama!Report

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